Learning to Love Gently

Today as I excitedly showed Oliver the new tomatoes starting to come in, I quickly realized he too was going to be excited, meaning he might want to pick them. I am thrilled that he likes tomatoes, and I love that he was excited about food growing on our patio, but I also want to end up with some ripe tomatoes!

The theme of enjoying something while letting it be has come up often since my son turned one, and I'm sure it's pretty universal. In fact the saying "I could just eat him/her!" - as people in many different cultures like to say to babies - reflects our human desire to actually consume things we love. But we all know there's a balance to be made between loving people gently and smothering them.

Oliver first learned to love gently - and not to smother - with our feral-turned-pet cat, Benito. This cat amazingly let Oliver pet him and touch him while he was eating, but eventually Oliver's affections became too much and Benito scratched him, more than once. "Give kitty space" and "suave" or "be gentle" became common phrases on our patio.

Flowers have also given us daily opportunities to practice enjoying-without-consuming and leaving things be. I remember when at 4 months old Oliver started picking the little white Jasmine flowers in our yard, and ever-so-romantically Jonathan taught Oliver to put them behind my ear. Oliver's love of flowers is still going strong today, but we've since practiced leaving flowers be, so that we and others can enjoy them tomorrow.

Alas, back to the tomatoes. Although we've practiced leaving flowers be, Oliver helps us pick basil leaves a couple times a week. So as we approached the tomato plant to see the "baby tomatoes", I wondered, would he want to appreciate them and leave them like flowers, or would the urge to pick them like basil be too great? Tomatoes are edible, after all. I showed him the "babies" and explained that they needed more time with their mother vine before we could enjoy them. He seemed to understand. As I took this picture of his adorable little hand framing this young yellow cherry tomato, I wondered "Is he going to pick it??" I reminded him to "leave it." He left it. But five minutes later he had it in his mouth, spitting it out. "It's not ready yet, see? We need to leave them be so they can grow," I said, hopefully. But two minutes after that he had picked another, and then another, and then the last one.

And that's parenting. We set our standards high. We believe in our children to understand. And they do, but it takes time to settle in. I'm confident tomorrow he won't pick any more. I just know he won't. But he might ;)